Serendipity Strikes a Third Time with Sustainability

In analyzing the sustainability of the new inverted squeeze pouch for its BBQ sauce, Uncle Dougie’s is surprised to learn of its environmental impact versus glass jars.

A life-cycle analysis of glass jars versus flexible pouches yielded surprising results.
A life-cycle analysis of glass jars versus flexible pouches yielded surprising results.

In the accompanying article, CEO of Uncle Dougie’s Rob Johnson explains how serendipity led to the partnership between the BBQ sauce maker and STANDCAP supplier Glenroy just when it was looking for a replacement for its glass packaging, and then again how it led to finding a co-packer willing to invest in filling the unique packaging format. In a third serendipitous event, Johnson’s municipality in Boise, ID, stopped collecting glass for recycling—a move that led him to research the reality behind glass’s perceived sustainability versus glass.

“I found there are a lot of municipalities around the country that are no longer accepting glass in curbside recycling for a whole host of reasons,” Johnson says. “Number one, it’s really resource intensive to clean and process glass to be recycled. And, number two, the secondary market for recycled glass just isn’t robust enough for it to be a profit-making enterprise for waste companies.

“The other thing is, because it’s such a laborious process to recycle glass, the demand for it and the throughput don’t match up. So there’s way too much glass to be cleaned and recycled than there is capacity to do it. As a result, all of these municipal waste companies are collecting glass, and it is, in effect, going into the landfill anyway.”

With this information in hand, Johnson began to wonder if the STANDCAP, with its lightweight, flexible nature, might actually be more sustainable than glass, even though it’s not recyclable. To find the answer to that question, Uncle Dougie’s worked with Glenroy and the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) to measure the environmental footprint of squeeze pouches versus typical glass bottles for BBQ sauce. “The results,” says Johnson, “were a lot more dramatic than we were anticipating.”

When comparing an 18-oz glass bottle with a 13.5-oz squeeze pouch using COMPASS® life-cycle assessment software from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), NMI found that the squeeze pouch reduces the use of fossil fuel by 65%; reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 78%, including a 30% reduction in GHGs resulting from transportation of the pouches; and decreases the amount of water used by 80%.

“What’s interesting about this is that most people’s preconception would probably be that glass is going to be better for the environment than a plastic pouch, and that could not be more untrue,” says Johnson. “Based on these findings, the pouch is dramatically better for the environment.

“But one of the most important things about this to us is that it’s not just about building a business and creating a better consumer experience in the category, it’s also about—as Doug [Doug Tomek, founder of Uncle Dougie’s] likes to say—leaving the world a better place than we found it. And I think despite people’s reservations about plastic versus glass, obviously the impact this is going to have for us to be selling barbecue sauce in a flexible pouch as opposed to a glass bottle is really, really significant.”

The pouch’s lighter weight also makes it a better option for shipping via e-commerce—a benefit Uncle Dougie’s hadn’t been aiming for with the project, but one that will allow it to get its product into the hands of more consumers, as shipping long distances becomes more economical with the pouch.

Although there is not currently a way for multilayer film to be recycled, Johnson says that now, with its STANDCAP package, the moment a solution becomes available, Uncle Dougie’s will be able to take advantage of it immediately, without having to upend its supply chain.

Read main article, "Inverted Pouch for BBW Sauce a First for the Category," here.

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